Dunstan HS crews ready for big week

Two Dunstan High School crews race alongside each other at the South Island secondary school...
Two Dunstan High School crews race alongside each other at the South Island secondary school rowing championships held earlier this month. PHOTO: SHARRON BENNETT
A small-town co-ed school is not your typical sporting power, although Dunstan High School's rowers seem to have missed the memo.

The school heads to this week's Maadi Cup - the national school rowing championships - at Lake Ruataniwha coming off a highly successful South Island school championships.

There are 2500 athletes converging from all over the country, so the regatta would be another step up.

However, Dunstan, with nine South Island medals and third place overall at the South Island championships two weeks ago, is one of Otago's best medal hopes.

It will take a squad of 27 to the cup, and was as well-prepared as it had ever been, coach Simon Smith said.

With secondary school sports increasingly dominated by single-sex schools in big cities, its success was especially significant.

"We've got a school that is tiny compared to a lot of these big schools," Smith said.

"We pull from a pool of athletes that would be a quarter to a fifth the size of a lot of these big schools.

"We don't get to pick and choose. We get what we get and we have to turn every kid we can into an athlete, whereas the big schools pretty much get to choose the cream of the bunch."

Despite that, he felt the Dunstan rowers came with special qualities and the environment was great for creating tough and driven athletes.

"The kids we get are awesome. They show up because they want to compete and they want to be there.

"We're really lucky with the environment of Alexandra and the sporting environment and the people in the area.

"We get a really tough group of kids. They're mentally strong and very driven in their training."

Smith said the rowing programme in the area was continuing to grow and attract more people.

In particular, its girls were excelling and it was looking strong across all the age-groups heading into Maadi.

Last year it claimed gold in the under-15 octuple sculls and with half of that crew returning in the same grade, it had a chance of repeating its success.

The under-16 girls quadruple crew of Skye Morton, Meg Creagh, Abbie Harrison, Kate Hanning and cox Shaye Scott were in good shape.

Likewise the under-18 girls double sculls crew of Iona Morton and Jas McIntosh were a chance of success.

There would be several other medal contenders among Otago schools, too.

The Maadi Cup begins on Monday and runs all week, concluding on Saturday.

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